LGR – Sid Meier’s Civilization – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – Sid Meier’s Civilization – DOS PC Game Review

[Ancient Egyptian MIDI music]
When I think about games that have
sucked the most man hours
from humanity over the years,
Civilization is darned near the top of my list.
There are very few games that can reliably
turn the early morning into late
night with you barely noticing,
and it all started with Sid Meier’s Civilization,
released by Microprose Software in 1991
for MS-DOS PCs.
“Build An Empire To Stand The Test Of Time,”
and bury giant Egyptian sarcophaguses
underneath twentieth-century cities simultaneously.
While “Civ,” as it’s often called,
went on to appear on most
every popular system of its day
and spawned its own little
gaming civilization of sequels,
its origins are pretty humble.
Back in the 1980s, game designer Sid Meier
wasn’t exactly a household name yet.
Sure, he’d made some pretty
sweet military combat simulations
and left his mark on the industry with his game Pirates!
But it wasn’t until Railroad Tycoon in 1990 that Meier
and fellow designer Bruce
Shelley cemented themselves
as game design royalty.
A top-down sandbox game
taking some cues from SimCity
and combining economics with asset management,
Railroad Tycoon was fantastic and really set the stage
for something more ambitious.
That something turned out to be Civilization,
a game partially inspired by the
Avalon Hill board game of the same name,
along with even more elements
drawn from the 1987 computer game
Empire: War Game of the Century.
Instead of ruling an industry,
the goal in Civ was to rule the world,
starting in the Stone Age and working
your way through the rest of time.
It not only helped establish strategy and
god games even more than Railroad Tycoon,
but it went on to sell millions,
spawn a huge franchise,
win tons of awards and ensure the name Sid Meier
was synonymous with quality gaming.
Inside the box, you get the game on
two high-density 5¼-inch floppy disks,
technical supplements and addendums
specific to the system you have,
and a nice thick instruction manual
covering everything you need
to know about the gameplay,
historical context for the
real-life stuff found in-game,
and a fold-out technology tree
showing all the sweet crap you’ll get to research.
Once you start the game, you’re given a main menu
consisting of options, letting you start a new game,
load a saved game, view the high scores,
play on an approximation of Earth,
and customize your own planet.
Though there are a variety
of customization options,
you’ll play on an Earth-like planet
no matter what you choose,
though the layout will be
randomized each time you play.
When you’re done playing God,
Civ begins at the beginning–
the very beginning–
not long after the planet came into existence
and the continents began forming.
It then proceeds to unnecessarily
tell you the story of how life formed.
How things evolved and what
the first vestiges of civilization were.
I say “unnecessarily” because it
really has no bearing on the game itself,
but it’s still nice to look at, and even a bit educational.
Although it’s not exactly Carl Sagan.
Plus it’s a chance to enjoy some of the
memorable soundtrack by Jeff Briggs.
[MIDI music plays]
After approximately three to
five billion years have passed,
it’s 4,000 B.C., and it’s time
to choose your difficulty level.
This not only changes requirements
for advancement and AI complexity,
but also when the game ends for scoring purposes.
Next, to decide how many
computer-controlled civilizations
you want crowding up your
world and fighting for resources,
then choose the historical
tribe and leader you’ll start as.
Personally, I’d choose someone with an awesome beard
and proceed to give them an equally awesome name
worthy of such an impressive facial manscape.
Your starting tribe also determines
what technology you’ll have knowledge of,
so there is some strategy here
beyond who would make the best
testosterone-infused lumberjack.
You’re then provided with some insight
into what each part of the screen does,
which is incredibly useful for new players.
In fact, despite how complex the game is,
Civ is surprisingly noob-friendly
with its frequent hints and tips,
as well as things like the Civlopedia
and easy-to-understand tech tree.
But basically it’s a top-down,
turn-based 4X strategy game
that plays a bit more like a board
game than a computer game.
Although the 4X term came after this
game had been around a couple of years,
it mantra of “explore, expand, exploit and exterminate”
most certainly applies here.
While the game is an open sandbox
that lets you do what you want,
most of what you do comes down to exploring the map,
expanding your territory,
exploiting resources
and exterminating rivals.
You start with a single settler unit,
and using either the keyboard or the mouse,
you’ll need to find a suitable
spot to found your capital city.
Note that every time you use up
the allotted moves for your units,
you need to end the turn and allow some time to pass
before you can move again.
Go ahead and start your first city,
name it whatever you want,
watch your settlers move in and do their thing,
then choose the next course of action.
There are any number of possible things to
look at here in the city management screen,
but since each city can only do one thing at a time,
and it uses up valuable turns
and resources to produce units,
it’s pretty important that you choose wisely.
You have advisors that’ll give you
an idea of what needs to be done,
but it’s totally up to you as to whether
or not you want to listen to them.
Near the beginning, it’s pretty straightforward, though.
Scout the area, make sure your cities are protected.
There you go.
Eventually you’ll run across native settlements,
barbarians or other civilizations.
Settlements are often helpful
and can provide things like extra units and resources,
though, sometimes, they’ll unleash
a horde of barbarians instead.
Barbarians are just trouble
and will cause no small amount of
aggravation until you exterminate them.
And other civilizations…
well that’s, uh, that’s up to you to handle as you please.
They can be a bit testy.
Along the way, you’ll have your
civilization’s smart people doing things,
researching everything from the wheel to engineering
to the freakin’ Manhattan Project.
And managing your cities also
becomes quite vital to your game,
since they’ll need roads, mines, walls,
markets, entertainment,
and who knows what else to
make sure the people stay fed,
wealthy and not in the mood to start an uprising.
You’ll also have a chance to apply taxes on luxuries,
as well as upending your existing
government with a revolution
in order to bring something like monarchy,
democracy or communism into play.
And what would any worthwhile
civilization be without some wonders,
which not only look wondrously cool,
but bring in extra prestige and wealth for your cities,
since there can be only one of each type.
For a while, this constant march forward in time,
researching stuff like philosophy
and being ancient hippies,
is all well and good.
You even get to choose upgrades
for your own personal palace
when your people decide you’re awesome enough.
But eventually push will come to shove
and someone will want to crap on your parade,
usually in the form of arrows to the face
and burning down your precious hippy empire.
The combat side of things is pretty straightforward.
Research upgrades, make units in your cities,
and send them on their merry, pillaging way.
Units can attack adjacent units,
and generally whoever has the better overall stats wins.
The only two ways to win the overall game, though,
are to stay alive until the colonization of space begins
or wipe out all other civilizations completely.
Depending on which goal you have in mind,
you will either want to beat them
into submission with your military
or use diplomats and diplomacy to make peace
and maybe send in spies to steal
their technology in the meantime.
Or if you don’t really give a crap and
just wanna play and see what happens,
then go right ahead.
That’s the beauty of Civilization.
Although there is a quote-unquote “goal” or ending,
the game doesn’t end unless
you are totally annihilated
or you put a stop to the game yourself.
Since everything hinges on looking forward
to that one next move or set of moves,
there’s a strangely compulsive attribute to the game
that pushes you to play just *one* more move.
If you’re strategically-minded even slightly,
Civ tends to engage you on a level
that few other games are able to.
You always want to see what the addition
of a new technology will mean to your people,
or how things would be if you could just
take one more settlement over on your island.
And for me at least,
the appeal of taking over the world
as the Aztecs or the Russians
is highly appealing,
since I love playing with what-if
scenarios and alternate history.
I mean, just the idea that the Germans
could have had nuclear capability
in the 18th century is just twisted
and awesome at the same time.
And there are few games that
let you play with such ideas.
And the element of randomness in
the game is implemented in such a way
that it really doesn’t feel random,
it just feels natural somehow.
Every game ends up being completely unique
and it’s not really done in a forced way,
so it’s always a pleasure to play again and again
just to see who can take over
ancient Egypt with battleships first.
Sure, there are some things that could
use ironing out to make a better game.
For instance, it’s too easy to lose early water units
by using the Go To command
since their pathfinding is stupid,
and the AI sometimes seems to
cheat its way to getting wonders first,
even if they seemingly don’t have enough production.
There’s also a major lack of diplomacy options,
so there really aren’t too many choices
if you don’t want to play a very aggressive game,
especially on higher difficulties.
But these and other complaints are things
that were addressed in later Civ games,
so whatever.
For the first game in the series,
I’d say it’s pretty extraordinary.
When I first played this back in the mid-’90s,
I was blown away with how awesomely unique it was
and how huge the game felt.
And even going back and playing it today,
I find it to be very satisfying to play for hours on end.
Even if it’s a lot simpler than the modern Civ titles,
there’s something to be said for simplicity,
and that something keeps me coming back to this one.
And I really was surprised at how accessible it all still is,
especially for an old DOS strategy game.
Since games in this genre can often feel overwhelming
with their giant rule books and huge tech trees,
Sid Meier’s Civilization is just awesome,
and I’d highly recommend giving
it or any of its offspring a shot
if you haven’t already.
If anything, it’s worth playing just
to answer the age-old question
of what life would be like
if a bearded Babylonian Duke
Nukem took over the world.
[MIDI music plays]

100 thoughts on “LGR – Sid Meier’s Civilization – DOS PC Game Review”

  1. "It's not exactly Carl Sagan."

    And now, I'm trying to imagine Duke Nukem pulling off a Carl Sagan-esque documentary on Civilization.

  2. Omg that music kicks me right in the nostalgia. I played civ1 far more then any other with 3 being a close second, excellent game.

  3. Civ 2 is the best game ever made! Later ones started to get over complicated. So many memories of being late for school! However it all started on my cousins Amiga and civ!

  4. You're so silly. This game never existed. Life really only began with Civ 2.
    Shun the nonbeliever!

  5. My family used to play the board game and when I bought my first IBM compatible (a Packard Bell 486/25) this was one of the included games and my dad and I played it a lot.

  6. So much nostalgiam.
    Dude, LGR, your channel is like the capital city of Nostalgialand.
    I come here when i gotta get my FIX MAN.
    Me and my brother loved this game and all the other civ games. I got called a war mongerer and nuked by Ghandi twice lmfao.

  7. The story on how earth was born is also when the level generation is done. I used to play this on a 8088 and had to wait for an hour for a level to generate (or so it felt)

  8. I NEVER won CIV on the hardest setting.
    I never knew about the game cheating.
    I never knew about players cheating.

  9. Ohhh that box art, great. Becomes a democracy Gandhi – "You are a stain on the world and I must wipe you out' war declared, times passes you skirmish a few naval vessels then suddenly nukes start raining down on you, rest of the world doesn't bat an eye, you fire one back and the world get all uppity suddenly. FOr long term fun mostly in civ 3 or 5 myself You could set the world up as AI only go into a spectator mode and watch them fight it out XD

  10. I still have my Windows copy of Civilization on several 3.5" floppies, and it is delightfully easier on the eyes. It's amusing that Sid Meier put himself in the game as the wise man/scientist. I'd like to delve deeply into it for the nostalgia and for the experience that made 4X really take off. I've always thought that I could improve the game balance and maybe even the function of it; I wonder if you can mod the original or maybe FreeCiv?

  11. Fabolous game – one of the greatest ever and the sole reason why my English and history skills at school improved rapidly.
    However the version I have is bugged/hacked AF. 🙁
    You have full access to the entire tech tree and all research is instant. So when you start in 4000 BC you can just scroll to Future Technology 1 and the next round you have researched that+everything before that. Not really fun. Plus all Settlers take 1 turn to do everything, you can buy all your units even if you don't have enough money (it will just set your money to 8191 I believe) and a lot more.
    Kinda ruins the game when you can nuke everyone before 2000 BC on Emperor difficulty.

  12. The first night I saw this, I also saw a dot matrix printer for the first time. Both seemed like they were from 50 years in the future.

  13. I kinda wish I could rewind time and relive the first experience I had when I fired up Civ for the very first time.

  14. I first played it on an Amiga 1500 and lost weeks at a time. The biggest problem was that the games disk, disk 1, tended to corrupt after a time. Fortunately it was possible to copy the original.
    Later versions had better graphics and slicker movement, but they weren't quite up to the first.

  15. This was my first civ, then i got 3 and 5. As soon as i played 5 the first time i get back to the 3 right away because the 3 its just the improved original instead of a pile of fancy graphics and completly unecesary things in version 5 that just distract the player of the real spirit of the game. I have the 3 in my Steam and still play it a lot.

  16. True story about civ 1, first time I played it with my dad and brother, I ended up fighting a bomber with my settler. My settler won. I was sold on the franchise until 6…

  17. I played this game more than any other DOS game… I kept comming back to it for years. When Colonization came out, I still went back to Civ 🙂

  18. I tried the subsequent versions, but only like the 1991 version…and have logged about 20,000 hours on it…! I play it on my MBP using DOSBox. It's the only game I play. The manual was excellent, and was a factor leading me to choose my first career as a technical writer.

  19. this game looks like the exact opposite of the definition of the word "simplicity". It looks confusing af with those cards wandering around a world map and there's way too much text overall.
    There is no better game of its kind than Empire Earth! This game even rules AoE 1 & 2!

  20. Honestly the game logic and graphics are incredible for 1991, that was so long ago I literally was still an embryo at the time!

  21. Nice review… You also should do a review of Master of Magic from Microprose. It's Civ with some great additions like turn based battles. Also, I played it on DosBox on Android. It plays like done for mobile. The big buttons (caused by the low resolutions back then) and the turn based game play makes a great mobile game out of it.

  22. One of the greatest games of all time.

    I remember playing emperor and using an exploit to irrigate and build roads across my entire continent before even establishing my first city.

  23. It’s been downhill since CivIII, and while 4 and 5 padded it out with UI and extra stuff, VI has worn out this road and ruined the game for me. I wish they would go back to the scale and tightness of 3, the features of 4 (and civics of 5), the look of 5, and a functional AI.

  24. I have to admit that PC version of music sounds very flat compared to Amiga version
    Amiga version seems to have a lot more of bass punch and more vibrant trebles

  25. I still play this game! use an emulator though. my Dad cracked it once that allowed me to increase my money 💰 and tech . #originalCheatMode thanks Dad 👍

  26. I remember finding and playing as the hidden Carthaginian civilization when playing on Earth. You started on the coast where Carthage was.

  27. "Civilization II" is still the best, as it look simple enough, in between 16bit and 3d, and has same feel as first one.
    I think many games was like that. Second one always is just radically improved first one, and starting from third is just trying to reinvent bicycle and "wow effect".

  28. I never realized how much I miss the periodic reports of "The Most ___ Civilizations in the World" and also "We Love The King Day"

  29. Bit of trivia about the music and text during the "world building" phase. That was put in place to give the player something to watch and listen to as our 8086-80386 was crunching numbers and actually making the world.

    It was realized it would take several minutes to make a world, so they put that in to keep us entertained and not think it had locked up.

  30. I'm guessing the fonts look so horrible and blocky in the game because you don't have some necessary screen fonts installed…

  31. As a kid I discovered that if you pressed enter at a specific point in the start sequence you would begin with 2 settlers. That was sweet!

  32. I miss acquiring technology on city conquest feature in late civilization games. Also civil disorder that shut downs cities is more realistic.

  33. This game was evolutionary. No one really knew what was coming from Microprose and Sid when this launched and it dominated the industry for quote some time. It belongs in the Pantheon of games that manage to rise above the others for their impact and effect.

  34. i was so addictet to this game. i barely understood english and hdn`t any clue over many functions. but i got highly overdosed

  35. I just realised that the settler icon is actually a cart…. I always thought it was a guy with white horns and a huge mouth.

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